Transcaucasia. Sketches of the Nations and Races Between the Black Sea and the Caspian


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A woman who has borne children cannot, after the death of her husband, marry again out of the family: she has been purchased, and is their property. The father or brother of the deceased may marry her, which, indeed, the Ossetes consider a matter of duty, a point of honor: they look upon it as a continuation of the first marriage, which is indissoluble. [The children of the second marriage rank as children of the first and inherit the name and property in the same manner.] This idea is carried out still further. If the deceased husband has left no brother or father surviving, and the widow is thus obliged to remain unmarried, she is not on that account prevented from living with other men; and any children which may result from such connections are considered the legitimate offspring of the first marriage. We had . . . an example before us: our hostess was a widow, and had three daughters by her deceased husband; he had been dead five years, but she was nursing a child less than twelve months old. This boy was the heir to the farm, bore the husband’s name, and supplanted in the inheritance the daughters born in wedlock, who received nothing of their father’s property, but would be eventually sold for the profit of this bastard.2

The levirate obtains as a matter of course [in Melanesia]. The wife has been obtained for one member of a family by the contributions of the whole, and if that member fails by death, some other is ready to take his place, so that the property shall not be lost; it is a matter of arrangement for convenience and economy whether a brother, cousin, or uncle of the deceased shall take his widow. The brother naturally comes first; if a more distant relation takes the woman he probably has to give a pig. In Lepers’ Island if a man who is a somewhat distant cousin of the deceased wishes to take the widow, he adds a pig to the death feast of the tenth or fiftieth day to signify and support his pretensions, and he probably gives another pig to the widow’s sisters to obtain their good will. If two men contend for the widow she selects one, and the fortunate suitor gives a pig to the disappointed. In fact a woman, when once the proper payment has been made for her, belongs to those who have paid—the family generally; hence a man . . . will set up his sister’s son in life by handing over to him one of his own wives; not because the young man has a right to his uncle’s wives, but because the woman is already in the family.1

2Haxthausen, A.vonn/an/an/an/a, , 403–404.

1 Codrington, The Melanesians, 244–245.

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Chicago: Transcaucasia. Sketches of the Nations and Races Between the Black Sea and the Caspian in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. Thomas, William I. (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937), Original Sources, accessed July 22, 2024, http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4P571XRQXA867XF.

MLA: . Transcaucasia. Sketches of the Nations and Races Between the Black Sea and the Caspian, in Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, edited by Thomas, William I., New York, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., 1937, Original Sources. 22 Jul. 2024. http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4P571XRQXA867XF.

Harvard: , Transcaucasia. Sketches of the Nations and Races Between the Black Sea and the Caspian. cited in 1937, Primitive Behavior: An Introduction to the Social Sciences, ed. , McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc., New York. Original Sources, retrieved 22 July 2024, from http://originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=4P571XRQXA867XF.